It’s almost unfathomable that it’s come to this point, but Mark Cuban is fielding questions regarding whether the Mavs might cut Lamar Odom mid-season. That’s clearly not a possibility; Odom is too valuable an asset to release with closure as the only payoff. Frankly, that the idea is present and festering at all is a bit baffling, if only because it seems indicative of the clear disconnect between the organization and everyone fluttering around outside the castle walls.
Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle, for their part, have chosen their words carefully when it comes to all things Odom. They have supported him at every turn, vouched for his value, and preached patience. They’ve done exactly what they should be doing in these bizarre circumstances, as they’ve managed to embrace Odom as a member of the team and the organization without coddling him. The Mavericks have opened their offense for him, and made it their mission to establish him in his comfort zones. Carlisle has worked with Odom personally to ensure a smooth transition, only to make relatively marginal progress. It just hasn’t clicked yet, but Carlisle and Cuban appear no less welcoming than they were at the start of the season.
At risk of generalizing, most Mavs fans have adopted a far less accommodating stance in regard to Odom’s continued struggles. On some level, it’s understandable; it can be frustrating and confusing to see a player struggle for anything other than basketball reasons, particularly as we attempt to assess the game in a vacuum. But such is indisputably the case with Odom, who stands as an unfortunate example of how shadows from outside the arena can creep onto the hardwood.
This is no mirage. This cannot be explained away. This is life lingering in the back of a player’s mind, much as it has that pesky habit of doing. It’s not a distraction; basketball is the distraction, with reality as Odom’s far too haunting home. His cousin is gone. His father is ill. He’s a man with a lot going on between his ears, which is a far more healthy result than an overwhelming sense of numbness that might improve the performance of the player, but would ultimately be far more taxing on the man. Odom is dealing with things in the best ways that he knows how, and you’ll understand if he doesn’t apologize for how his personal trials might impact your favorite team.
Odom won’t be cut this season, and a trade won’t jive with the Mavs’ long-term financial plans. He’s in Dallas to stay, for the moment at least, and can do nothing but find his own way. Count on him if you’d like, discount him if you’d rather, but never forget that basketball is a mere subplot.